Joseph Eaton enters a courtroom on Thursday, April 20, 2023. Police say Eaton confessed to shooting seven people — killing four of them, including his parents — after being released from prison last week. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

The man charged with killing his parents at a Bowdoin home wanted to move to Florida in 2014 to complete his probation for a Maine crime but his father refused to give up his guns, according to court documents. 

Joseph Eaton, 34, of Bowdoin could not live in a house where there were firearms under federal law because he is a convicted felon. Eaton pleaded guilty to a Class C assault charge involving a former domestic partner on April 6, 2013, in Auburn.

Initially a condition of Eaton’s probation was that he make a good faith effort to move to Florida, according to the court docket. However, the state moved to remove that condition because his father would not relinquish his guns. 

Eaton is charged with four counts of murder in the shooting deaths earlier this week of his parents, Cynthia R. Eaton, 63, and David Lee Eaton, 66, both of Ocala, Florida, and the friends they were staying with, Robert C. Eger Jr., 72, and Patricia Deraps Eger, 62, who owned the home at 1459 Augusta Road in Bowdoin. A dog inside the home was also shot and killed. It’s unclear when the deaths occurred, although an affidavit made available Thursday indicated that the Eatons and Egers died on or about Monday.

The new detail about Joseph Eaton and his criminal history highlights the difficulty of keeping guns out of the hands of people who would use them for violent crimes.

Eaton eventually did move to Florida to live with his parents in 2017 after he was released from Downeast Correctional Facility in Machiasport where he was serving time for violating his probation on domestic violence charges. His parents asked that his probation, which was continued, be transferred to Florida.

For Eaton to have lived with his parents, his father would have had to change his mind and relinquish his guns, though it’s unclear how the provision was enforced. Eaton living in the home with guns would have violated his probation in Maine. His probation conditions were transferred to Florida. No information was available Thursday about what happened to those weapons.

In Florida he again violated his probation by committing new crimes that included first responders, according to court documents. He was arrested in January 2018.

Eaton’s criminal record dates back to 2013. He was charged with 15 different crimes before Tuesday’s shootings, according to a state police background check document. Those crimes include felonies that bar individuals from possessing firearms under state and federal law.

On Tuesday, Joseph Eaton also allegedly randomly fired at cars and wounded a family of three in Yarmouth, about 30 minutes south of the Bowdoin home. Sean Halsey, 51, and his two children, Justin Halsey, 29, and Paige Halsey, 25, all of Bowdoinham, were wounded in Yarmouth and taken to Maine Medical Center in Portland. The men suffered injuries not considered life-threatening, but Paige Halsey was critically injured. On Wednesday afternoon, Sean Halsey said that his daughter’s breathing tube had been removed and she was recovering. Police are continuing to investigate that incident.

Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin, who is prosecuting the Bowdoin case, said charges will be filed by her office in the Yarmouth incident but did not say when they would be filed.